Va. Cop Guilty in Shooting of Unarmed Black Teen

Stephen Rankin plans to appeal manslaughter conviction
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 5, 2016 7:47 AM CDT
Stephen Rankin appears in court on Aug. 4, 2016.   (The Virginian-Pilot via AP, Pool)
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(Newser) – A former Portsmouth, Va., police officer was found guilty of manslaughter Thursday after shooting an unarmed black teen last year—the second fatal shooting of his career. Though Stephen Rankin was charged with first-degree murder, a jury convicted him of the lesser charge and recommended he spend two and a half years in prison, reports the Guardian. He faced up to 10. Prosecutors said Rankin, 36, intentionally killed 18-year-old shoplifting suspect William Chapman in a Walmart parking lot on April 22, 2015, after Chapman resisted arrest. However, Rankin—a US Navy veteran with training in mixed martial arts—said he shot Chapman twice in self-defense as Chapman "came towards me aggressively" after a Taser was knocked from Rankin's hand as the two scuffled.

"I felt I needed to save my life," he said, adding he immediately gave Chapman CPR. The Guardian reports Rankin also shot and killed an unarmed man from Kazakhstan in 2011, though Judge Johnny Morrison ruled jurors couldn't hear about that since a grand jury declined to indict Rankin. In that case, Rankin said 26-year-old Kirill Denyakin, shot 11 times, reached into his waistband and charged at him. Prosecutors also couldn't share with the jury text messages Rankin sent before Chapman's death; one read "people are just bad," another referenced Sodom and Gomorrah. It's not clear whether Chapman actually stole something from Walmart. Rankin is due to be sentenced Oct. 12, though his lawyers plan to appeal. The Virginian-Pilot reports he's the 13th US officer to have a jury convict him of murder or manslaughter since 2005. (Read more police shooting stories.)

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